Long Standing Show Returns in December

Published in Woonsocket Call on November 8, 2015

Foundry Artist Association Kicks Off 33rd holiday Sale at Pawtucket Armory

Look for thousands of shoppers to converge on downtown to purchase unique holiday gifts for their friends and loved ones.       Next month, the Foundry Artists Association (FAA), one of Rhode Island’s premier arts events, returns to the City of Pawtucket to kick off its 33rd holiday sale.  At this two weekend event, 60 seasoned artists bring their fine art and crafts to sell to the Pawtucket Armory’s drill hall, items ranging from art glass to wood, and include painting, sculpture, metal, fiber, mixed media, jewelry, ceramics, photography, millinery, handmade books, and furniture.

One of Rhode Island’s oldest shows runs for seven days over the first two December weekends, starting with the Gala Opening Night on Thursday, December. 3, from 5pm – 9pm. The Gala features the John Juxo and Otis Read, refreshments and the kick off of a Silent Auction showcasing items valued over $50 that are donated by each of the participating artists.

The show continues on Friday, December. 4, from noon – 8pm; Saturday (December. 5) and Sunday (December. 6) from 10-6 pm. The proceeds of the first weekend Silent Auction will be given to two nonprofits: Sovereign House, an advocacy and resource center for Rhode Island domestic abuse victims and the Resources for Human Development, a Pawtucket-based arts-based studio program that serves adults with a range of disabilities.

The Foundry Artist show reopens on Friday, December 11, noon – 8pm; Saturday, December. 12, 10am – 6pm, and closes on Sunday, December. 13, 10am – 6pm.

The show is free to the public with free parking in the adjacent parking lot and free on street parking.  Handicap parking is in the rear of the building.  No sales tax will be charged on purchases; all major credit cards accepted.

Providence artist Michael Bryce, FAA’s president, says his organization’s event stands out from other art shows popping up throughout the Ocean State in December.  “With a juried selection of artists, the caliber of work is high in our show,” he says, noting that a strong outreach brings seasoned artists to group’s attention, who are invited to apply and submit their work for consideration.

“After a rigorous jury process usually 75 percent of the artists will be selected to return the next year, says Bryce. This turnover gives shoppers an opportunity to view the art work of the new participating artist each year.

Pawtucket’s First Years

Bryce says that over three decades ago, a community of artists opened their I-95 Foundry Building studios in downtown Providence to the public during the December holiday season.  In 1995, when the Foundry Building was converted to office space, its artists scattered to studios throughout the region, however, they continued to hold a December holiday show in different venues. These places included Veterans Auditorium and at a mill now demolished on Charles Street, both located in downtown Providence. The Foundry Artist would end up in Pawtucket initially by relocating to the Grant building on the City’s historic Main Street and later to Riverfront Lofts, across the river from City Hall.

In 2002, the Foundry Artists were drawn to the 1894 castle-like Armory, on Exchange Street, says Bryce.  With the departure of the National Guard in 1994 the City’s historic Pawtucket Armory became vacant.  Its 11,000 sf drill hall might just be the perfect place to hold for their holiday sale.

Ultimately, with the Foundry Artist signing a lease with the Pawtucket Armory Association, a nonprofit that owned and was renovating the historic structure, former Mayor James E. Doyle, charged the city’s Department of Planning & Redevelopment with the responsibility of making sure all the regulatory i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.  Art supporters, including Phyllis and Morris Nathanson, Paul Audette, along with Developer Ranne P. Warner gave countless hours to making this first Holiday sale a success.

At the first Foundry Artist Holiday Sale, under the amazing vaulted space, a large outside propane heater piped hot air inside the drill hall to bring temperatures up to a manageable level.  Porta cans placed at the back of the drill hall became the de facto rest rooms. With paint peeling from the ceiling and walls, the huge space needed a good coat of paint.

But, shoppers, coming from Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts, found plenty of free parking in Pawtucket, and easy access off Interstate 95.  With the Pawtucket Armory being located in the City’s 307 acre Arts District, there was no sales tax was charged on purchases.

Over the 13 years that the holiday sale has been held at the Pawtucket Armory, gradual improvements were made to this building.  Propane heaters used during the first years were replaced with an efficient gas heating system and rest room facilities were built out.  Over the last couple of years a new wooden floor was installed in the huge drill hall with the walls and ceiling being painted.

Bryce, employed by the Providence Journal as a freelance illustrator at age 12 who was has received undergraduate and master degrees in painting and illustration and teaches art at local colleges, says that the Armory’s drill hall perfectly showcases the artist’s one-of-a-kind art work. “I cannot even image another space that would be so perfect,” he says, stressing that the “beautiful space” gives shoppers a “breath-taking experience.” when they are browsing around looking for that piece of art.

With two years under his belt as President, Bryce has worked to put his finger prints on the Holiday sale.  With the silent auction being completed by the end of the first weekend, he successfully pushed his group to create artist showcase which highlights each unique artist’s works.

Live artist demonstrations and videos are scheduled every hour on the second weekend to show the process of making art in different artistic mediums, Bryce added, noting that this “creates an interesting and interactive environment for the shopper.”

For additional information about this year’s foundry Artists Show, please visit www.foundryshow.com or www.facebook.com/foundryshow.  Or listen to advertising spots place don Rhode Island National Public Radio.

Just Weeks Away

Published in digital issue of Rhode Island Creative Design in September 2015

For the third year, XOS Exchange Street Open Studios (XOS) will showcase its talented artisans on Sept. 26 and 27 from 10-4 p.m. at three renovated historic buildings in Pawtucket’s Armory Arts District. This year, 35 artists will be showing original, handcrafted artwork, including paintings, sculpture, prints, photography, crafts, wearable art, jewelry, graphic and textile design, and more, all sales-tax free.

The art show is sponsored in part by the City of Pawtucket, Bristol County Savings Bank, the Pawtucket Arts Festival, and Pamela Hughes. Organizer Joan Hausrath says XOS is very unique in that, “visitors may park and walk from building to building rather than driving from one location to another.” Art Making In Historic

Pawtucket Mills

The renovation of the participating downtown Pawtucket mills draws many visitors to the event, says Hausrath. Riverfront Lofts (10 Exchange Ct.), a former knitting mill on the Blackstone River, is now a condominium with more than 50 unique work/live spaces. Next door is Blackstone Studios (163 Exchange St.), which was once a cardboard factory but now contains both design and art studios, including that of well-known artist/designer, Morris Nathanson. Finally, just one block away is Mad Dog Artist Studios (65 Blackstone Ave.), a new enterprise that provides studio and common area workspaces to artists on a short or long-term rental basis.

“Anyone who is an artist residing or renting a studio in any of the buildings may participate in XOS. Participating guest artists are invited by unit hosts,” states Hausrath, noting that each year the artists vary. Besides buying artwork, “People will have a unique opportunity to learn more about creative art making,” says Hausrath. They can view works in progress, watch art demos, and talk with artists about their career goals. This year, Lyell Castonguay and friends from BIG INK will be printing huge woodcut prints and encouraging visitors to join them.

An Easy Drive

Take Exit 29, I-95, and follow the signs. There is plenty of free parking, music, and food trucks. Arts Marketplace Pawtucket, a fine art and crafts show, will be taking place in the historic Pawtucket Armory nearby, so make a day of it! For more information including a list of participating artists and directions, go to: www.xospawtucket.com.

Documentary Takes a Look at Speed Dating for Seniors

Published in Pawtucket Times, August 9, 2014

Three years ago, a personal story would lead filmmaker Steven Loring to zero in on a topic for his MFA thesis film while studying at the Social Documentary Film Program in NYC’s School of Visual Arts. His thesis ultimately grew into a 78-minute documentary, “The Age of Love,” which follows the adventures of 30 seniors who sign up for a speed dating event exclusively for 70- to 90-year-olds. The film premieres at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, Sunday, August 10, at 12:15 p.m. at the Paff Theatre at URI, 80 Washington Street, Providence. And there’s a special offer for anyone who comes to the box office with a date: When you buy one ticket, your date gets in FREE! Any date! Any age!

The story took shape after the passing away of Loring’s father in 2008 left his still-vibrant mother alone after being married to her soul mate for nearly half a century. At that same time, his 80-year old uncle, who’d never even dated, to Loring’s amazement suddenly fell madly in love with an 80-year-old woman, both acting like love-struck teenagers.

“It was like they were in high school again,” Loring says, noting that the couple walked around holding hands and that he even found their bedroom door shut when he visited.

These events pushed the Brooklyn-based filmmaker to take a look at relationships in one’s later years. His research efforts revealed that the nation’s media had neglected issues involving seniors’ emotional and intimate needs. On the internet, he found that speed dating for seniors was a newly emerging trend which had occurred in a few communities in Florida and Colorado. Ultimately, a speed dating event in Rochester, New York would give him the perfect place to explore and document and come away with new insights into the issue.

Loring’s efforts to reconcile two dynamically opposite life experiences, losing a long-term intimate relationship and suddenly finding one at an advanced age, led the graduate student to finally formulate this thesis question, “Do decades of life and loss constrict our hearts, or might time develop them in unexpected ways,” That’s the question the 51-year-old filmmaker attempts to answer in his film project.

Speed Dating for Seniors

Loring’s documentary, a winner of the 2013 Paley Center DocFest Pitch Competition and recently awarded a prestigious Fledgling Fund social engagement grant, follows the amusing and emotional adventures of the seniors who signed up for the Rochester speed dating event, which was organized by a ‘healthy aging’ coalition to bring new social opportunities to the older community. The trendy matchmaking process allowed these individuals to meet for a brief five minutes. When the time was up the organizer sounded a bell, signaling participants to move on to the next table. Each kept a tally of those they would like to contact later. If both parties were interested in each other, a follow up date would occur.

According to Loring, as a result of the heavy promotion of this unique event, combined with the intense local media buzz, “dozens of area seniors called to register, all willing to put themselves out there, to take stock of their aging bodies and still-hopeful hearts.”

“The film takes viewers where no documentary has gone before – directly into the lives of older singles who still yearn to be seen and understood, who still desire another’s touch, who seek a new chance of love,” says Loring. Unlike other recent documentaries exploring issues of aging, the film maker saw an “opportunity to break social and generational barriers by looking at the older participants not in terms of singular talents or specific communities, but through shared, human desires.”

For three months, Loring filmed without a crew. He was able to easily develop personal relationships with the senior speed daters “allowing candid stories to emerge by following their everyday routines,” he says.
Looking to Find That Perfect Match

Loring notes that some participants came seeking simple companionship, while others came looking for that special mate. Among the speed daters who appear in the film: An 81-year-old bodybuilding champ, divorced since his fifties, who still believes new love is possible; a skydiving widow who dulls her loss by pursuing younger men; a grandmother and online-dating addict searching the web for Mr. Right; a romantic 79-year-old who discards his portable oxygen for a sunset tango on the beach, a 1940s movie fanatic who escaped an abusive marriage, yet still seeks her ‘Fred and Ginger’ romance.

Janice Ledtke, 78, a resident of Webster, New York, a suburb of Rochester, remembers making the decision to participate in speed dating. After 38 years of being single following her divorce in 1976, she jumped at the chance to meet new people. “What did I have to lose,” says Ledtike, a former property management employee, who met dates over the years at singles groups or through being fixed up by friends.

“You never know who you just might meet,” remembers Ledtike, noting when her friends found out about her participation in the speed dating event and documentary, “they thought I was crazy, but it’s just another one of my adventures.”

Ledtke says she met a variety of personalities at the speed dating event. But her follow up dates with a film maker, a retired professor and an owner of a small insurance company went nowhere. “I was not necessarily looking to find the love of my life, but if it happened, it happened,” she adds, stressing that it was not the end of the world because she came away with a number of new friends.

Linda Sorrendino, 72, had many long-term relationships since her 1973 divorce. “I have many diamonds to prove this,” quips the resident of Victor, New York. Over the years, like Ledtke, she would meet people by attending singles groups or through friends.

Learning from a friend about the speed dating event, Sorrendino, a retired office clerk, immediately signed up. “You just never know. As to landing a relationship, “you just go with the flow,” she remarks.

As Sorrendino reflects on her speed dating experience and her late life relationships, she notes, “I don’t want to be with a decrepit old man, but I also don’t want to be with somebody a lot younger who looks better that I do and feels like he’s with an old lady.”

A Final Thought…

“The film’s message is so positive and encouraging,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell. “Watching these folks surely will make it easier for others to re-enter the dating scene. At the same time, there is a subtext that is very important: No one featured in the documentary seems desperate. Each has found a way to move on from divorce or loss of a spouse or partner. Will they find their storybook ending? I think the film makes it clear that there are no promises. But there’s a strong message that giving love another chance is not so intimidating – especially if you find some an organized group that puts you among people of similar age and circumstance.”

The documentary also will reveal to its broader audience that the desire for companionship and intimacy does not evaporate at some advanced specific age,” Connell added. “These feelings are not always easy for people to discuss with their children or grandchildren. Its great people get to see these folks take part in the speed-dating experience because in the accompanying interviews they reveal hopes and fears many hold inside. But I love the takeaway: ‘If something happens, that’s great. If not, I’ll still be okay.’”

Loring plans to work with AARP and other ‘healthy aging’ organizations across the country to bring older adults together in 25 cities next year at senior speed dating events. For more information go to theAgeofLoveMovie.com or email steven@theAgeofLoveMovie.com

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

Artist Philippe Lejeune Brings Interactive Installations to Slater Park Fall Festival

Published in Pawtucket Times, September 13, 2013

In writings about his artwork, French artist Philippe Lejeune says, “I play and stage ‘ephemeral images’ that live and move with us in the present time – accurate reflections, illusions of form that relate to our existence. Volatile images that can feed or simply touch our mental images, something one can remember.”

For me, and probably many of my readers,’s comment might just seem a little bit esoteric. On Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 21-22, 2013 at Slater Memorial Park during the upcoming Slater Park Fall Festival, you can meet this new Pawtucket artist and experience his “Glass Project” (www.projeqt.com/tiil). Your trip may well unravel any confusion pertaining to his artistic medium, vision or creativity.

Coming to America

The sixty-two year old French artist, who grew up in a suburb just five minutes from Paris, discovered his artistic talent at age 13 when on a weekend he picked up a pen to sketch his family during a moment of boredom. Years later after graduating high school, his talent would be sharpened by formalized artistic training in printmaking at the “Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs, an acclaimed fine arts school in Paris.

The young man became an apprentice at the printmaking studio of Mario Boni, where he would later work with renowned illustrator Jean-Michel Folon. As Folon’s engraver, Lejeune translated the printmaker’s vision into the medium of print, gaining an international reputation for his mastery of Aquatint, a technique that causes the finished prints to often time resemble watercolors or wash drawings.

In 1984, Lejeune and his wife moved to Westport, Connecticut, where he became an etching artist in his own right, where his etchings were exclusively being distributed world-wide by Cavalicro Fine Arts. As his success grew by leaps and bounds, the artist became disenchanted with the “Art marketplace” because he felt he was becoming just a “producer of commodities.” Three years later, Lejeune would leave his beloved printmaking, branching into painting and sculpture with a more contemporary art approach.

Developing his Artistic Craft

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Lejeune was commissioned to create outdoor aluminum sculptures for private estates and public spaces in both the United States and France. The city of Stamford, Connecticut commissioned a public installation consisting of seven wood, glass, and mirror pieces for the Bank Street Program at the Toquam School. The commission required students to interact with his art work. His huge installations became a vehicle for their own artistic expressions.

In 1992 the French artist returned to his homeland where he later developed a new artistic approach. His site-specific installations were created to challenge the viewer’s perceptions by juxtaposing reality with virtual images, to blur the line between “what is” and “what is not.” Lejeune took his concept to the Centre d’Art Contemporain de la ferme du Buisson in Marne-la Vallee as well as in schools, museums and public spaces around Paris, using his artwork as a teaching tool for expanding the awareness of children as well as adults.

In 1996, the French artist returned to the states, bringing his wife and four children to Cotuic in Cape Cod, residing in a home-built in 1850. A decade later, he moved his family to Boston.

During this time, the French artist began painting trees on plywood, creating what he calls a “plywood forest,” later on experimenting with digital photography within the boundaries with traditional photography, transforming still images into virtual animation. He also became an adjunct art teacher at Cape Cod Community College, teaching drawing and painting, creating a hybrid on-line art classes along with a video blogging class.

Coming to Pawtucket

The high cost to rent artist live-work space in Boston brought Lejeune (now separated) to Pawtucket, to rent a 2,800 square foot studio, owned by internationally acclaimed Glass artist, Great Howard Ben Tre.

The transplanted Massachusetts artist began an exploration of Providence and Pawtucket, reaching out to local art groups and artists. An internet search led him to this writer (who serves as the City’s Economic & Cultural Affairs officer). Learning of Lejeune’s interest in bringing interactive installations to Pawtucket, he was referred to Patty Zacks, an organizer of the Slate Park Fall Festival. Lejeune was invited to bring his “magical confusion” installations to the large outdoor art festival in the City’s largest park. He also was invited to take part in planning the two day event.

For those coming to Slater Park Fall Fest, they will experience Lejeune’s interactive installations, created to confuse the viewer’s senses and perception. viewers don’t just passively look at the art work, they are drawn in to become more physically engaged.

Celebrate the Beauty of Slater Park

Art lovers of every age can greet more than 125 artists and artisans at the Slater Park Fall Festival, which also presents a highlight of the festival performance by the Rhode Island Philharmonic Pops Orchestra sponsored by The Pawtucket Teachers’ Alliance. An exciting addition to this weekend is a performance by the Cowsills, national music heroes with hometown Rhode Island roots (the rain date for the Rhode Island Philharmonic Pops in the Park concert is September 23 at 5:30 p.m. at Slater Memorial Park). Bring your lawn chairs and blankets. A dazzling fireworks show sponsored by Bristol County Savings Bank will take place at the conclusion of the concert.

The Slater Park Fall Festival is a ‘community festival’ where the public has the opportunity to meet some of its local artists, learn about their craft and discover what makes Pawtucket special! This event also features an “open air market” of food trucks, farmers market, and craft exhibitions, a gallery at the Watercolor Society, and tours are available at historic Daggett House.

Other performers and presenters at the two-day event includes: Marvelous Marvin the Magician, Greek dancers, Big Nazo puppets, the Sons & Daughters of Erin Irish Festival, Living Statues by Students of Beacon Charter High School for the Arts in Woonsocket. Enjoy a classic car cruise, Chicken Little dance performance by the Part of the Oath, Poetry Slam, Peace Flag project, and demonstrations by URI master gardeners at Daggett Farm, and Rock-A-Baby RI. This “pet friendly” festival has something for everyone – including the Slater Park (Pawtucket) Dog Park!

Children will enjoy face painting, paddle boat rides, the Pawtucket Bookmobile (Sunday), and the Looff Carousel.

A final note…

So, if classical or oldies music is just not your cup of tea, why not attend the Sept. 22 fundraiser of the Pawtucket Fireworks Committee, scheduled from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at The Met, 1005 Main St., Pawtucket. This fundraiser features Rhode Island’s own Steve Smith & The Nakeds, currently celebrating their 40th anniversary, have proven their staying power as they continue to enjoy a full touring schedule and an ever-growing fan base. Fondly called simply “The Nakeds” by their legion of fans, this band of musicians was inducted in April, 2013, into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame. Admission: $20.

For more details about the Slater Park Fall Festival or for programming information about tomorrow’s Pawtucket Arts Festival events (Rocktucket, Behind the Scenes Tour of TEN31 and Central Falls Bright Future Festival) or the events scheduled for the final weekend, visit: http://www.pawtucketartsfestival.org or call 401-724-2200.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer covering, aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

Art Can Jump Start the State’s Sagging Economy

Published in the Pawtucket Times, February 22, 2013

Rhode Island may be known as the nation’s littlest State. But if Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, and House Speaker Gordon D. Fox have their way, the Ocean State may be called the “State of the Arts.”

Even with the occurrence of a massive blizzard just two days before the February 11th Art Charrette, 110 art supporters (including 10 Senators), from government, the business community, academia and the nonprofit sector, did not let huge snow piles in some spots up to two feet high keep them off the streets. They traveled to Fidelity Investments headquarters in Smithfield to tell top State elected officials how art and creativity can rev up Rhode Island’s sputtering economic engine.

Fidelity Investment’s 500-acre campus off Route 7 features three buildings, including a 577,000-square-foot office building. It was the perfect place to talk seriously about art. Carol Warner, who has served as Fidelity’s Art Curator for more than 30 years, says her company has purchased over 1,200 pieces of art from 433 Rhode Island artists. The collection is showcased throughout the campus and is installed on the surrounding grounds. Warner enthused that the art “both enhances the work space and invigorates its employees,” in her comments to the gathered legislative and arts and cultural leadership attendees.

During her opening remarks Warner noted that Fidelity Investments supports local artists in Rhode Island and wherever they have a presence at nine regional campuses and 180 investment centers throughout the nation.

The Political Stars Align for Arts

Chafee, whose demonstration program put murals on four visible highway retaining walls and abutments along Interstate 95, noted that staggering statistics “underscore the plain fact that the arts are clearly one of Rhode Island’s premier [economic] assets.” He cited a New England Foundation for the Arts study, published last fall that found that 2009 direct and indirect spending by the non-profit arts sector totaled $673 million and supported nearly 8,000 jobs.

According to the Governor, just last year, a Washington, D.C.-based Americans for the Arts study found over 12,000 Rhode Island jobs were created in both the State’s private and nonprofit art sectors. The economic impact in Providence alone was greater than that of Delaware, Hawaii, South Dakota and New Hampshire…states with larger populations, he said.

“The arts and culture are also deeply intertwined with our state’s appeal as a tourism destination. They make Rhode Island a place where people want to spend time and – quite frankly – spend money,” added Chafee, whose proposed 2014 budget provides additional funding for the State’s Tourism Division.

“Rhode Island’s creative sector encompasses over 3,248 arts-related businesses and jobs that employ more than 13,000 individuals,” stated Paiva Weed, who spear headed the efforts to organize this idea gathering session. “Despite the lingering effects of the recession on most sectors of the economy, the creative sector in Rhode Island added 770 jobs and enjoyed a 16 percent growth between 2011 and 2012.”

Fox acknowledged the fact that Rhode Island needs to play to its strength in the arts, an observation that he garnered from a speaker at a recently held economic development workshop at Rhode Island College.

Don’t expect the final report generated from the Art Charrette to sit on a State bureaucrat’s dusty shelf. Fox, whose chamber initially hammers out the State’s budget, asserted that he will work closely with the Senate and Governor to review the final suggestions to ensure that arts are a key component of Rhode Island’s state’s economic turnaround.

For Executive Director Randy Rosenbaum, who has led the State’s Council for the Arts for 18 years, the gathering was a “pinch me” moment. For years his mantra has been “the arts are important for the economic vitality of Rhode Island.” With Chafee’s opening affirmation that Paiva Weed and Fox are “unified” in their belief that the arts are key to economic growth in Rhode Island, the State’s Arts Czar saw all the planets in alignment for bringing his “arts and economic vitality” mantra closer to a political reality.

RISD President John Maeda came bringing his greetings, too. Maeda, a designer, computer scientist, academic and author, took the opportunity to announce the February 14th, launching of STEM to STEAM, a new RISD-led initiative to add Art and Design to the national agenda of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). Co-chaired by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL), the bipartisan caucus focuses on furthering the incorporation of art and design into STEM education for American students. The new Congressional Caucus also includes Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Jim Langevin (D-RI).

Neil Steinberg, President of Rhode Island Foundation, views arts as a “twofer” with the jobs that the sector creates and the quality of life for the people who come here and for those who stay. He notes that his group, one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation and the only community foundation serving the Ocean State, is committed to building the arts sector,

Break Out Session Generates Ideas

With the larger group split into three discussion groups, more than 85 suggestions were compiled by the Art Charrette organizers.

One suggestion was to create a branding campaign to establish an art identity for Rhode Island. It was recommended that state policy makers make the most of the State’s small size and high density of artists and art groups. Visual branding of arts districts along with art trails with eating establishments would promote incredible art work and great restaurants.

It was noted that the State is already known as a design State. Given the presence of RISD and other education institutions, Rhode Island is in a position to become a leader in the nation’s design community. The State might easily become a workshop for the arts and industry.

Strategically use the State’s marketing budget for arts branding and to promote the tax free purchase of one-of-a-kind art in the certified Arts Districts throughout the Ocean State.

It was suggested that all municipalities incorporate the arts in their Economic Development Comprehensive Plan. All Cities and Towns should have an arts advocate who specifically serves as the person responsible for economic development activities.

Use the State’s taxing and bonding authority to advance the arts in Rhode Island. Rhode Island has nine legislatively created arts districts. Expand this tax policy to every city and town.

Also, better data must be collected. One recommendation called for the compiling of the true economic impact that includes not just data from restaurants, but from hotels, parking, art and entertainment activities, too.

Next Steps…

For this columnist: For more than 14 years I have seen the arts revitalize Pawtucket’s stagnant economy, bringing new life to its mills and tax dollars into the City’s coffers. Yes, redeveloped mills increase property values that bring in more property tax dollars to run a cash strapped city.

It is clear from last week’s Arts Charrette, the state’s political leadership now see the arts as a key sector in bringing dollars to the State’s coffers by attracting more tourists and convention business. Leadership must now sift through the dozens of suggestions and craft a comprehensive arts policy to be funded in Rhode Island’s 2014 Budget. If lawmakers walk their talk, Rhode Island truly will become the nation’s Art State, where artists make a living with their creative talents and Rhode Island becomes the newly emerging renaissance State.

For a detailing of Art Charrette suggestions, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMx45FXkVEs&list=UUMCPC8hUqIQQeq107tm5VAQ

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a freelance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues. He promotes the arts by serving as Pawtucket’s Economic & Cultural Affairs Officer.

The Best of…Program Shows It’s Never Too Late to Become Artistic

            Published November 12, 2001, Pawtucket Times

 

           The painting of large colorful murals not only brightened up the lobby area, the main hall, and the lunchroom’s blank white walls but sparked the interest for art among seniors at Providence’s Westminster Senior Center.    

            Last week, the budding artists along with their admirers gathered in the Center’s 1,000 square foot basement to show off their artistic works (created with charcoal, pastels, colored pencils and acrylic paints), all produced during 20 art classes held over a 10 month period..  

           Providence  resident Natalie Austin, 69, a former legal secretary who now works part-time at the Westminister Senior Center as a receptionist, had little exposure to the arts.  Courses taken in elementary and high school, an art history course at Brown University, along with some attempts to paint her summer home in Maine,  summed up Natalie’s life experience in the arts in one sentence.

           Austin, a graduate of Brown University who rallied the seniors at the Center to support the offering of art lessons, knew that it would become a popular program.  While not wishing to replace the late Grandma Moses, an American painter who in her late 70s began to paint, Austin paints for her own pleasure and that of others, she says.

         One of Austin’s class assignments was to draw a picture with charcoal using the elements of Van Gogh’s  famous painting, “The Starry Night.”  The drawing of a bag and straw hat were done fairly fast,Austin admits, noting that the swirling lines and distinct outlines of the Van Gogh masterpiece are incorporated into her work.   

         Another class assignment, using a landscape painting drawn by Pierre Bonnard-Ford, taught Austin the proper way to mix and use colors.  Her colorful drawing, using blues and oranges, followed her instructors assignment of copying the French artist’s palette while painting another subject.   

         While pleased with the quality of the art work she has produced in the art classes,Austin quips, “There’s always room for improvement.  I am always competing with myself, trying to improve.”

         Meanwhile, other lessons are learned besides the technical skills of mixing paint or sharpening charcoal pencils.  “Art gives you  insight into what people are like,”Austin says, noting that it also reveals their values too.

         Professional artists Pierre Lamuniere-Ford, his wife Jenny Booth and Jen Iwasyk were able to develop this unique art program for seniors which included  the purchase art supplies, courtesy of a $5,000 grant from the state’s Department of Elderly Affairs.

         Much thought was put into creating the curriculum for each class, Lamuniere-Ford told All About Seniors.                  

        The instructors, all in their 30s, taught basic drawing techniques, from gesture to realistic drawing, along with color mixing to their older students.    

         “When classes began it was hard to get people to get past their self doubts that they could become artists,” Lamuniere-Ford said.  “We worked very hard to dislodge the myth that you are [born] immediately talented, he added..

         According to Lamuniere-Ford, his students learned that art should not always be viewed as a pretty picture. “Art can be disturbing  and not pretty to see,” he says, noting that it can reflect one’s soul or a person’s state of mind.     

         Additionally, the students were able to use art to help them learn more about each other.  More important, he says, “they became less critical of self and of others.”

         Executive Director Marianela Dougal, of the Westminster Senior Center, acknowledges that she is not an artist, but views herself as an art lover.  She believes that art classes at her Center provide seniors with an avenue to express themselves and to be creative, giving them an opportunity to gain a sense of well being.

         Adds Rachel Filinson, Ph.D., Coordinator of Gerontology Program at Rhode Island College,  research findings indicate that creativity extends into the later years.  “People who are artists their whole life continue to be very prolific in producing quality work as they did in their earlier years,” she says. 

         “Anything that is stimulating will promote both your mental and physical health,” adds Filinson.  

          Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. This article appeared in the November 12, 2001 issue of the Pawtucket Times. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.